Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday (September 8) assured the northeast that the Centre will “not touch” Article 371 of the Indian Constitution, which provides special provisions in the region.
In his inaugural address at the 68th plenary session of the North East Council (NEC) in Guwahati, Shah said that after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, there were attempts to “misinform and misguide” the people of
the northeast that Article 371 would also be scrapped by the Centre.
“I have clarified in the Parliament that this is not going to happen and I am saying it again today in the presence of eight chief ministers of the northeast that both the Articles are different and the Centre will not touch Article 371,” Shah said.
Further, he said that the Constituent Assembly had framed Article 370 as a temporary provision but Article 371 is about special provisions in the northeast and there is a vast difference between the two. “I think it is important to clarify the difference between the two. Let me make it clear that the Prime Minister and the BJP government respects Article 371 and 371(A),” he said.
Most of the States that have been accorded special provisions under Article 371 are in the northeast and the special status aims to preserve their tribal culture.
The Union Home Minister said that there was an attempt to give a wrong message that the BJP-led government would scrap Article 371 and this was done by people who did not want peace in the northeast or the region to become an engine of development.
This was Shah’s first visit to Assam since the publication of the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state on August 31.
On the NRC exercise, he said that the BJP-led government is committed to ensure that not a single illegal immigrant enters the region. He added that the NRC has also been completed within the stipulated time-frame.
Pointing out that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there has been a “drastic decline” in terrorism and militant activities, Shah said, “I do not want to quote statistics but the entire country and the world knows that we have been able to control it.”
However, he said, there are still misguided people who indulge in armed activities. “But our minds are open and hands stretched for those who want to lay down arms. For those who want to continue, the government will follow a zero-tolerance policy,” he said. He further alleged that the misguided people who take up arms are “our own but are tools in the hands of vested foreign forces.”
“If Indo-Bangla border dispute can be resolved, why not disputes among our states in the region? Rise above border disputes and support each other, so that the region can develop together,” Shah said, adding that PM Modi has given top priority to the development of the northeast and that he was the first prime minister in 40 years to attend a NEC meeting in Shillong.
“No Congress prime minister had attended a NEC meeting and though I do not want to make a political statement but among all the eight chief ministers present at the meeting today, none are from the Congress but all are North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) constituents,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)